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Identifying schizophrenia patients who carry pathogenic genetic copy number variants using standard clinical assessment: retrospective cohort study

  • Claire Foley (a1), Elizabeth A. Heron (a2), Denise Harold (a3), James Walters (a4), Michael Owen (a5), Michael O'Donovan (a4), Jonathan Sebat (a6), Eric Kelleher (a7), Christina Mooney (a8), Amy Durand (a9), Carlos Pinto (a10), Paul Cormican (a11), Derek Morris (a12), Gary Donohoe (a13), Michael Gill (a14), Louise Gallagher (a15) and Aiden Corvin (a16)...



Copy number variants (CNVs) play a significant role in disease pathogenesis in a small subset of individuals with schizophrenia (~2.5%). Chromosomal microarray testing is a first-tier genetic test for many neurodevelopmental disorders. Similar testing could be useful in schizophrenia.


To determine whether clinically identifiable phenotypic features could be used to successfully model schizophrenia-associated (SCZ-associated) CNV carrier status in a large schizophrenia cohort.


Logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves tested the accuracy of readily identifiable phenotypic features in modelling SCZ-associated CNV status in a discovery data-set of 1215 individuals with psychosis. A replication analysis was undertaken in a second psychosis data-set (n = 479).


In the discovery cohort, specific learning disorder (OR = 8.12; 95% CI 1.16–34.88, P = 0.012), developmental delay (OR = 5.19; 95% CI 1.58–14.76, P = 0.003) and comorbid neurodevelopmental disorder (OR = 5.87; 95% CI 1.28–19.69, P = 0.009) were significant independent variables in modelling positive carrier status for a SCZ-associated CNV, with an area under the ROC (AUROC) of 74.2% (95% CI 61.9–86.4%). A model constructed from the discovery cohort including developmental delay and comorbid neurodevelopmental disorder variables resulted in an AUROC of 83% (95% CI 52.0–100.0%) for the replication cohort.


These findings suggest that careful clinical history taking to document specific neurodevelopmental features may be informative in screening for individuals with schizophrenia who are at higher risk of carrying known SCZ-associated CNVs. Identification of genomic disorders in these individuals is likely to have clinical benefits similar to those demonstrated for other neurodevelopmental disorders.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Professor Aiden Corvin. Email:


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Declaration of interest: None.



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Identifying schizophrenia patients who carry pathogenic genetic copy number variants using standard clinical assessment: retrospective cohort study

  • Claire Foley (a1), Elizabeth A. Heron (a2), Denise Harold (a3), James Walters (a4), Michael Owen (a5), Michael O'Donovan (a4), Jonathan Sebat (a6), Eric Kelleher (a7), Christina Mooney (a8), Amy Durand (a9), Carlos Pinto (a10), Paul Cormican (a11), Derek Morris (a12), Gary Donohoe (a13), Michael Gill (a14), Louise Gallagher (a15) and Aiden Corvin (a16)...


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