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Around 30% of individuals with schizophrenia remain symptomatic and significantly impaired despite antipsychotic treatment and are considered to be treatment resistant. Clinicians are currently unable to predict which patients are at higher risk of treatment resistance.
To determine whether genetic liability for schizophrenia and/or clinical characteristics measurable at illness onset can prospectively indicate a higher risk of treatment-resistant psychosis (TRP).
In 1070 individuals with schizophrenia or related psychotic disorders, schizophrenia polygenic risk scores (PRS) and large copy number variations (CNVs) were assessed for enrichment in TRP. Regression and machine-learning approaches were used to investigate the association of phenotypes related to demographics, family history, premorbid factors and illness onset with TRP.
Younger age at onset (odds ratio 0.94, P = 7.79 × 10−13) and poor premorbid social adjustment (odds ratio 1.64, P = 2.41 × 10−4) increased risk of TRP in univariate regression analyses. These factors remained associated in multivariate regression analyses, which also found lower premorbid IQ (odds ratio 0.98, P = 7.76 × 10−3), younger father's age at birth (odds ratio 0.97, P = 0.015) and cannabis use (odds ratio 1.60, P = 0.025) increased the risk of TRP. Machine-learning approaches found age at onset to be the most important predictor and also identified premorbid IQ and poor social adjustment as predictors of TRP, mirroring findings from regression analyses. Genetic liability for schizophrenia was not associated with TRP.
People with an earlier age at onset of psychosis and poor premorbid functioning are more likely to be treatment resistant. The genetic architecture of susceptibility to schizophrenia may be distinct from that of treatment outcomes.
Rare copy number variants (CNVs) are associated with risk of neurodevelopmental disorders characterised by varying degrees of cognitive impairment, including schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. However, the effects of many individual CNVs in carriers without neurodevelopmental disorders are not yet fully understood, and little is known about the effects of reciprocal copy number changes of known pathogenic loci.
We aimed to analyse the effect of CNV carrier status on cognitive performance and measures of occupational and social outcomes in unaffected individuals from the UK Biobank.
We called CNVs in the full UK Biobank sample and analysed data from 420 247 individuals who passed CNV quality control, reported White British or Irish ancestry and were not diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders. We analysed 33 pathogenic CNVs, including their reciprocal deletions/duplications, for association with seven cognitive tests and four general measures of functioning: academic qualifications, occupation, household income and Townsend Deprivation Index.
Most CNVs (24 out of 33) were associated with reduced performance on at least one cognitive test or measure of functioning. The changes on the cognitive tests were modest (average reduction of 0.13 s.d.) but varied markedly between CNVs. All 12 schizophrenia-associated CNVs were associated with significant impairments on measures of functioning.
CNVs implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia, are associated with cognitive deficits, even among unaffected individuals. These deficits may be subtle but CNV carriers have significant disadvantages in educational attainment and ability to earn income in adult life.
Declaration of interest
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