Ethyl glucuronide, a marker of alcohol consumption, correlates with metabolic markers of oxidant stress but not with hemolysis in stored red blood cells from healthy blood donors

Transfusion. 2020 Jun;60(6):1183-1196. doi: 10.1111/trf.15811. Epub 2020 May 8.


Background: Red blood cell (RBC) storage in the blood bank is associated with the progressive accumulation of oxidant stress. While the mature erythrocyte is well equipped to cope with such stress, recreative habits like alcohol consumption may further exacerbate the basal level of oxidant stress and contribute to the progress of the storage lesion.

Study design and methods: RBC levels of ethyl glucuronide, a marker of alcohol consumption, were measured via ultra-high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry. Analyses were performed on 599 samples from the recalled donor population at Storage Days 10, 23, and 42 (n = 250), as part of the REDS-III RBC-Omics (Recipient Epidemiology Donor Evaluation Study III Red Blood Cell-Omics) study. This cohort consisted of the 5th and 95th percentile of donors with extreme hemolytic propensity out of the original cohort of 13,403 subjects enrolled in the REDS-III RBC Omics study. Ehtyl glucuronide levels were thus correlated to global metabolomics and lipidomics analyses and RBC hemolytic propensity.

Results: Ethyl glucuronide levels were positively associated with oxidant stress markers, including glutathione consumption and turnover, methionine oxidation, S-adenosylhomocysteine accumulation, purine oxidation, and transamination markers. Decreases in glycolysis and energy metabolism, the pentose phosphate pathway and ascorbate system were observed in those subjects with the highest levels of ethyl glucuronide, though hemolysis values were comparable between groups.

Conclusion: Though preliminary, this study is suggestive that markers of alcohol consumption are associated with increases in oxidant stress and decreases in energy metabolism with no significant impact on hemolytic parameters in stored RBCs from healthy donor volunteers.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Donors*
  • Blood Preservation*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glucuronates / blood*
  • Hemolysis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress*


  • Biomarkers
  • Glucuronates
  • ethyl glucuronide