Hepcidin and Erythroferrone Complement the Athlete Biological Passport in the Detection of Autologous Blood Transfusion

Andreas Breenfeldt Andersen, Jacob Bejder, Thomas C Bonne, Henrik Sørensen, Helle Sørensen, Grace Jung, Tomas Ganz, Elizabeta Nemeth, Niels H Secher, Pär I Johansson, Nikolai Baastrup Nordsborg


PURPOSE: We investigated whether hepcidin and erythroferrone (ERFE) could complement the athlete biological passport (ABP) in indirectly detecting a 130-mL packed red blood cells (RBC) autologous blood transfusion. Endurance performance was evaluated.

METHODS: Forty-eight healthy men ( n = 24) and women ( n = 24) participated. Baseline samples were collected weekly followed by randomization to a blood transfusion (BT, n = 24) or control group (CON, n = 24). Only the BT group donated 450 mL whole blood from which 130 mL red blood cell was reinfused 4 wk later. Blood samples were collected 3, 7, 14, 21, and 28 d after donation, and 3, 6, and 24 h and 2, 3, and 6 d after reinfusion. In the CON group samples were collected with the same frequency. Endurance performance was evaluated by a 650-kCal time trial ( n = 13) before and 1 and 6 d after reinfusion.

RESULTS: A time-treatment effect existed ( P < 0.05) for hepcidin and ERFE. Hepcidin was increased ( P < 0.01) ~110 and 89% 6 and 24 h after reinfusion. Using an individual approach (99% specificity, e.g., allowing 1:100 false-positive), sensitivities, i.e., true positives, of 30% and 61% was found for hepcidin and ERFE, respectively. For the ABP, the most sensitive marker was Off-hr score ([Hb] (g·L -1 ) - 60 × √RET%) ( P < 0.05) with a maximal sensitivity of ~58% and ~9% after donation and reinfusion, respectively. Combining the findings for hepcidin, ERFE, and the ABP yielded a sensitivity across all time-points of 83% after reinfusion in BT. Endurance performance increased 24 h (+6.4%, P < 0.01) and 6 d after reinfusion (+5.8%, P < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Hepcidin and ERFE may serve as biomarkers in an antidoping context after an ergogenic, small-volume blood transfusion.

TidsskriftMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Udgave nummer9
Sider (fra-til)1604-1616
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 1 sep. 2022


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