Donor Health

Research lines

Donor Health     

Blood donation is generally safe, but some short and long term side effects may occur. Observational data suggest that some donors might benefit from donating while it might harm others. Since donors are a healthy group of individuals who donate voluntarily, any harm should be prevented. The study and maintenance of donor health is also important to guarantee a safe and efficient blood supply; healthy donors will remain eligible to provide blood of high quality. Donor health research applies epidemiological and (bio-)statistical methods to identify factors that distinguish donors who benefit from (frequent) donations from those who are harmed in order to study, protect and improve donor health.



Donor InSight (DIS) is a large-scale, longitudinal survey based study, aiming to understand the characteristics of donors (socio-demographic, lifestyle), their experiences with donation, reasons and motivation for donor return or lapse, their medical history and physical and psychological effects of donation. Surveys were conducted in 2007-09 and 2012-13. More details can be found at www.sanquin.org/donorinsight.


Frequent whole blood donations may carry the risk of iron depletion and subsequent hemoglobin (Hb) level decrease. A low Hb level may lead to deferral for donation, which results in unnecessary costs for the blood bank and an increased risk of donor lapse. The aim of this study is to investigate genetic factors associated with declining versus stable Hb levels in blood donors. Furthermore, it will be assessed whether genetic factors can improve existing prediction models for low Hb deferrals. Last, health effects of iron deficiency in blood donors will be examined. Read more


Lifestyle behaviours are considered to be driven by distal ‘upstream’ factors in our environment that may affect an individual’s level of physical activity. Examples include the interconnectivity of streets and proximity of parks, and the availability and accessibility of foods and varieties of fast-food outlets. Consequently, the physical environment can be an important ‘upstream’ determinant of lifestyle behaviours and blood quality parameters like plasma lipid content and hemolysis. The aim of this project is to identify environmental determinants of lifestyle behaviours and blood quality parameters. Read more


Donors matching patients who are negative for common blood group antigens, or who have an uncommon combination of alloantibodies are most likely to be found in ethnic minority populations, but these are underrepresented in the Dutch donor population. This highlights the need to increase the variety of blood types in our donor base by 1. identifying ethnic minority populations to focus on in terms of rare blood type prevalence and 2. subsequently developing effective and efficient recruitment and retention strategies for these specific populations. Blood Match – Availability is a donor-focused project, part of the Sanquin programme ‘Alloimmunisation against blood group antigens: balance between patients’ needs and supply of matched red cells: Blood Match’. Read more

Research projects donorstudies

Research projects on donor health are often linked to project on donor behavior.

Browse our projects.

Key publications

  • Van den Hurk K, Zalpuri S, Prinsze FJ, Merz EM, de Kort WLAM. Associations of health status with subsequent blood donor behavior-An alternative perspective on the Healthy Donor Effect from Donor InSight. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 19;12(10):e0186662
  • Schotten N, Zalpuri S, Pasker-de Jong PCM, Swinkels DW, van den Hurk K, de Kort WLAM, van Kraaij MGJ, van Noord PAH. Utility of zinc protoporphyrin in management of whole blood donors. Transfusion. 2018 Mar;58(3):692-700.
  • Slot E, Zaaijer HL, Molier M, Van den Hurk K, Prinsze F, Hogema BM. Meat consumption is a major risk factor for hepatitis E virus infection. PLoS One. 2017 Apr 27;12(4):e0176414
  • Van den Hurk K, Peffer K, Habets K, Atsma F, Pasker-de Jong PC, van Noord PA, Veldhuizen IJ, de Kort WL. Donor InSight. Blood Transfus. 2016 Jul 12:1-8.
  • Baart AM, de Kort WL, van den Hurk K, Pasker-de Jong PC. Transfusion. 2016;56(8):1984-93.