WINNIPEG -- Not everyone who lives with schizophrenia responds to medication, and findings from a new study out of the University of Manitoba may help treatment-resistant cases get recognized sooner.

The lead author, Dr. Kaarina Kowale, is an assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and an affiliated researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

The results of the research point to two risk factors that are associated with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

“For the first time in a large, nationally-representative population, we found that those with schizophrenia, who have multiple family members with schizophrenia or have a low intelligence score, were at high risk for failing drug treatment,” said Kowalec in a press release.

The intelligence scores used in this study were done before the initial schizophrenia diagnosis was made.

The study examined data from close to 25,000 Swedish people, and another subgroup of about 5,000 people that provided genetic samples. With information from the subgroup, the study also found that a persons’ genetic information was not associated with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

People with treatment-resistant schizophrenia are at a higher risk of death and suicide compared to those who do respond to treatment, and Kowalec hopes these finding will have an effect on clinical practices and future research.

“Antipsychotic drug therapies can be very effective for schizophrenia; however, we have identified a group of individuals who may benefit from receiving more targeted or stronger drug therapies earlier on,” said Kowalec.

“This work also points us to future research into understanding the shared genetic and environmental risks for treatment resistance in schizophrenia, including more comprehensive genetic markers.”

The work was funded by grants through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme and the Government of Canada Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship program, as well as support from the Swedish Research Council and National Institute of Mental Health.

The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.