The Retrovirus Epidemiology Donor Study (REDS), conducted from 1989–2001, and the Retrovirus Epidemiology Donor Study-II (REDS-II), conducted from 2004–2012, were National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) funded multicenter programs focused on improving blood safety and availability in the United States. REDS-II also included international study sites in Brazil and China. The three major research domains of REDS/REDS-II have been infectious disease risk evaluation, blood donation availability, and blood donor characterization. Both programs have made significant contributions to transfusion medicine research methodology by the use of mathematical modeling, large-scale donor surveys, innovative methods of repository sample storage, and establishing an infrastructure that responded to potential emerging blood safety threats such as XMRV. Blood safety studies have included protocols evaluating epidemiologic and/or laboratory aspects of HIV, HTLV I/II, HCV, HBV, WNV, CMV, HHV-8, B19V, malaria, CJD, influenza, and T. cruzi infections. Other analyses have characterized: blood donor demographics, motivations to donate, factors influencing donor return, behavioral risk factors, donors’ perception of the blood donation screening process, and aspects of donor deferral. In REDS-II, two large-scale blood donor protocols examined iron deficiency in donors and the prevalence of leukocyte antibodies. This review describes the major study results from over 150 peer-reviewed articles published by these two REDS programs. In 2011, a new seven year program, the Recipient Epidemiology and Donor Evaluation Study-III (REDS-III), was launched. REDS-III expands beyond donor-based research to include studies of blood transfusion recipients in the hospital setting, and adds a third country, South Africa, to the international program.
Keywords: blood safety, transfusion-transmitted infections, blood availability, blood donors