Thymol (5-methyl-2-isopropylphenol) is a phenolic compound that is used to inhibit oral bacteria. Because little is known regarding the effects of this compound on ruminal microorganisms, the objective of this study was to determine the effects of thymol on growth and lactate production by the ruminal bacteria Streptococcus bovis JB1 and Selenomonas ruminantium HD4. In addition, the effect of thymol on the in vitro fermentation of glucose by mixed ruminal microorganisms was investigated. Neither 45 nor 90 μg/ml of thymol had any significant effect on growth or lactate production by S. bovis JB1, but 180 μg/ml of thymol completely inhibited growth and lactate production. In the case of S. ruminantium HD4, 45 μg/ml of thymol had little effect on growth and lactate production; however, 90 μg/ml of thymol completely inhibited growth of S. ruminantium HD4. Thymol also decreased glucose uptake by whole cells of both bacteria. When mixed ruminal microorganisms were incubated in medium that contained glucose, 400 μg/ml of thymol increased final pH and the acetate to propionate ratio and decreased concentrations of methane, acetate, propionate, and lactate. In conclusion, thymol was a potent inhibitor of glucose fermentation by S. bovis JB1 and S. ruminantium HD4. Even though thymol treatment decreased methane and lactate concentrations and increased final pH in mixed ruminal microorganism fermentations of glucose, concentrations of acetate and propionate were also reduced.
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