Large-scale, population-based studies of genetic epidemiology are under way or planned in several countries, including the UK. The results will have many implications for GPs and their patients. Primary care has much to contribute to this research, and basing genetic epidemiology studies in primary care will confer several advantages. These include enhanced public engagement, building on the personal relationships and trust that are at the core of primary care practice; methodological factors that will strengthen study design; and the potential of linkage of multiple datasets and between networks of research practices. Essential development work with primary care professionals and the public is, however, required for this to happen, and, if undertaken, this work will have the additional important benefit of increasing the uptake of new knowledge into general practice.
epidemiology; genetics; primary care; public engagement
Forced vital capacity (FVC), a spirometric measure of pulmonary function, reflects lung volume and is used to diagnose and monitor lung diseases. We performed genome-wide association study meta-analysis of FVC in 52,253 individuals from 26 studies and followed up the top associations in 32,917 additional individuals of European ancestry. We found six new regions associated at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) with FVC in or near EFEMP1, BMP6, MIR-129-2/HSD17B12, PRDM11, WWOX, and KCNJ2. Two (GSTCD and PTCH1) loci previously associated with spirometric measures were related to FVC. Newly implicated regions were followed-up in samples of African American, Korean, Chinese, and Hispanic individuals. We detected transcripts for all six newly implicated genes in human lung tissue. The new loci may inform mechanisms involved in lung development and pathogenesis of restrictive lung disease.
We previously used a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster associated with heaviness of smoking within smokers to confirm the causal effect of smoking in reducing body mass index (BMI) in a Mendelian randomisation analysis. While seeking to extend these findings in a larger sample we found that this SNP is associated with 0.74% lower body mass index (BMI) per minor allele in current smokers (95% CI -0.97 to -0.51, P = 2.00×10−10), but also unexpectedly found that it was associated with 0.35% higher BMI in never smokers (95% CI +0.18 to +0.52, P = 6.38×10−5). An interaction test confirmed that these estimates differed from each other (P = 4.95×10−13). This difference in effects suggests the variant influences BMI both via pathways unrelated to smoking, and via the weight-reducing effects of smoking. It would therefore be essentially undetectable in an unstratified genome-wide association study of BMI, given the opposite association with BMI in never and current smokers. This demonstrates that novel associations may be obscured by hidden population sub-structure. Stratification on well-characterized environmental factors known to impact on health outcomes may therefore reveal novel genetic associations.
We found that a single nucleotide polymorphism in the CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster, which is known to influence smoking heaviness, is associated with lower body mass index (BMI) in current smokers, but higher BMI in never smokers. This difference in effects suggests that the variant influences BMI both via pathways other than smoking, and via the weight-reducing effects of smoking, in opposite directions. The overall effect on BMI would therefore be undetectable in an unstratified genome-wide association study, indicating that novel associations may be obscured by hidden population sub-structure.
Chronic pain with neuropathic characteristics is associated with significantly lower EQ-5D and Short Form 6D health utilities scores, with 17% reporting health states “worse than death”.
The EQ-5D and Short Form (SF)12 are widely used generic health-related quality of life (HRQoL) questionnaires. They can be used to derive health utility index scores, on a scale where 0 is equivalent to death and 1 represents full health, with scores less than zero representing states “worse than death.” We compared EQ-5D or SF-6D health utility index scores in patients with no chronic pain, and chronic pain with and without neuropathic characteristics (NC), and to explore their discriminant ability for pain severity. Self-reported health and chronic pain status was collected as part of a UK general population survey (n = 4451). We found moderate agreement between individual dimensions of EQ-5D and SF-6D, with most highly correlated dimensions found for mental health and anxiety/depression, role limitations and usual activities, and pain and pain/discomfort. Overall 43% reported full health on the EQ-5D, compared with only 4.2% on the SF-6D. There were significant differences in mean utilities for chronic pain with NC (EQ-5D 0.47 vs SF-6D 0.62) and especially for severe pain (EQ-5D 0.33 vs SF-6D 0.58). On the EQ-5D, 17% of those with chronic pain with NC and 3% without NC scored “worse than death,” a state which is not possible using the SF-6D. Health utilities derived from EQ-5D and SF-12/36 can discriminate between group differences for chronic pain with and without NC and greater pain severity. However, the instruments generate widely differing HRQoL scores for the same patient groups. The choice between using the EQ-5D or SF-6D matters greatly when estimating the burden of disease.
Chronic pain; EQ-5D; Health-related quality of life; Health utilities; Neuropathic pain; SF-6D; S-LANSS
Over 50% of community-dwelling older adults experience chronic pain, which threatens their quality of life. Of importance to their pain management is older people's interaction with health professionals that, if unsatisfactory, may impair the outcome.
To add to the limited research specific to older people living with chronic pain in the community, we explored how they perceive their experiences of interacting with health professionals, seeking factors that might optimise these interactions.
Purposive sampling was used to recruit men and women >65 years with self-reported musculoskeletal chronic pain. Qualitative individual interviews and one group interview were undertaken with 23 participants. Data were transcribed verbatim and underwent Framework Analysis.
Three themes were identified. Seeking help illustrates issues around why older people in the community may or may not seek help for chronic pain, and highlights the potential involvement of social comparison. Importance of diagnosis illustrates the desire for professional validation of their condition and an aversion to vague explanations based on the person's age. Being listened to and being heard illustrates the importance of empathic communication and understanding expectations, with due respect for the person's age.
In common with people of all ages, an effective partnership between an older person in pain and health professionals is essential if pain is to be reported, appropriately assessed and managed, because of the subjective nature of pain and its treatment responses. For older people with pain, perception about their age, by both parties in the partnership, is an additional factor that can unnecessarily interfere with the effectiveness of this partnership. Health professionals should engage with older adults to clarify their expectations about pain and its management, which may be influenced by perceptions about age; and to encourage expression of their concerns, which may also be affected by perceptions about age.
The Engaging with older adults in the development of strategies for the self management of chronic pain (EOPIC) study aims to design and develop self management strategies to enable older adults to manage their own pain. Involving older adults in research into chronic pain management will better enable the identification and development of strategies that are more appropriate for their use, but how can perspectives really be utilised to the best possible outcomes?
Seven older adults were recruited through a local advertising campaign to take part. We also invited participants from the local pain services, individuals who had been involved in earlier phase of the EOPIC study and a previous ESRC funded project. The group undertook library training and research skills training to facilitate searching of the literature and identified sources of material. A grading tool was developed using perceived essential criteria identified by the older adults and material was graded according to the criteria within this scale.
Fifty-seven resources from over twenty-eight sources were identified. These materials were identified as being easily accessible, readable and relevant. Many of the web based materials were not always easy to find or readily available so they were excluded by the participants. All but one were UK based. Forty-four items were identified as meeting the key criteria for inclusion in the study. This included five key categories as follows; books, internet, magazines, leaflets, CD’s/Tapes.
This project was able to identify a number of exemplars of self management material along with some general rules regarding the categories identified. We must point out that the materials identified were not age specific, were often locally developed and would need to be adapted to older adults with chronic pain. For copyright issues we have not included them in this paper. The key message is really related to the format rather than the content. However, the group acknowledge that these may vary according to the requirements of each individual older adult and therefore recommend the development of a leaflet to help others in their search for resources. This leaflet has been developed as part of Phase IV of the EOPIC study.
Older adults; Literature for self-management of chronic pain; Strategies for managing chronic pain; Involving older adults in research
Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is a common Mendelian condition which, untreated, results in premature coronary heart disease. An estimated 88% of FH cases are undiagnosed in the UK. We previously validated a method for FH mutation detection in a lipid clinic population using next generation sequencing (NGS), but this did not address the challenge of identifying index cases in primary care where most undiagnosed patients receive healthcare. Here, we evaluate the targeted use of NGS as a potential route to diagnosis of FH in a primary care population subset selected for hypercholesterolaemia.
We used microfluidics-based PCR amplification coupled with NGS and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) to detect mutations in LDLR, APOB and PCSK9 in three phenotypic groups within the Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study including 193 individuals with high total cholesterol, 232 with moderately high total cholesterol despite cholesterol-lowering therapy, and 192 normocholesterolaemic controls.
Pathogenic mutations were found in 2.1% of hypercholesterolaemic individuals, in 2.2% of subjects on cholesterol-lowering therapy and in 42% of their available first-degree relatives. In addition, variants of uncertain clinical significance (VUCS) were detected in 1.4% of the hypercholesterolaemic and cholesterol-lowering therapy groups. No pathogenic variants or VUCS were detected in controls.
We demonstrated that population-based genetic testing using these protocols is able to deliver definitive molecular diagnoses of FH in individuals with high cholesterol or on cholesterol-lowering therapy. The lower cost and labour associated with NGS-based testing may increase the attractiveness of a population-based approach to FH detection compared to genetic testing with conventional sequencing. This could provide one route to increasing the present low percentage of FH cases with a genetic diagnosis.
Familial hypercholesterolaemia; Total cholesterol; LDLR; Molecular diagnostic testing; Next-generation sequencing; Primary care; Generation Scotland
Education, socioeconomic status, and intelligence are commonly used as predictors of health outcomes, social environment, and mortality. Education and socioeconomic status are typically viewed as environmental variables although both correlate with intelligence, which has a substantial genetic basis. Using data from 6815 unrelated subjects from the Generation Scotland study, we examined the genetic contributions to these variables and their genetic correlations. Subjects underwent genome-wide testing for common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). DNA-derived heritability estimates and genetic correlations were calculated using the ‘Genome-wide Complex Trait Analyses’ (GCTA) procedures. 21% of the variation in education, 18% of the variation in socioeconomic status, and 29% of the variation in general cognitive ability was explained by variation in common SNPs (SEs ~ 5%). The SNP-based genetic correlations of education and socioeconomic status with general intelligence were 0.95 (SE 0.13) and 0.26 (0.16), respectively. There are genetic contributions to intelligence and education with near-complete overlap between common additive SNP effects on these traits (genetic correlation ~ 1). Genetic influences on socioeconomic status are also associated with the genetic foundations of intelligence. The results are also compatible with substantial environmental contributions to socioeconomic status.
•Generation Scotland is a large family-based cohort of ~ 24,000 people.•We investigate the genetic influences on education, SES, and intelligence.•Both DNA-based (subset of ~ 6500) and pedigree-based analyses are used.•Genetic effects on SES and education are linked to the genetic basis of intelligence.•There are also substantial environmental effects on all three traits.
Generation Scotland; Intelligence; Education; Socioeconomic status; Genetics
Chronic widespread pain (CWP) is a common disorder affecting ~10% of the general population and has an estimated heritability of 48-52%. In the first large-scale genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis, we aimed to identify common genetic variants associated with CWP.
We conducted a GWAS meta-analysis in 1,308 female CWP cases and 5,791 controls of European descent, and replicated the effects of the genetic variants with suggestive evidence for association in 1,480 CWP cases and 7,989 controls (P<1×10−5). Subsequently, we studied gene expression levels of the nearest genes in two chronic inflammatory pain mouse models, and examined 92 genetic variants previously described associated with pain.
The minor C-allele of rs13361160 on chromosome 5p15.2, located upstream of CCT5 and downstream of FAM173B, was found to be associated with a 30% higher risk of CWP (MAF=43%; OR=1.30, 95%CI=1.19-1.42, P=1.2×10−8). Combined with the replication, we observed a slightly attenuated OR of 1.17 (95%CI=1.10-1.24, P=4.7×10−7) with moderate heterogeneity (I2=28.4%). However, in a sensitivity analysis that only allowed studies with joint-specific pain, the combined association was genome-wide significant (OR=1.23, 95%CI=1.14-1.32, P=3.4×10−8, I2=0%). Expression levels of Cct5 and Fam173b in mice with inflammatory pain were higher in the lumbar spinal cord, not in the lumbar dorsal root ganglions, compared to mice without pain. None of the 92 genetic variants previously described were significantly associated with pain (P>7.7×10−4).
We identified a common genetic variant on chromosome 5p15.2 associated with joint-specific CWP in humans. This work suggests that CCT5 and FAM173B are promising targets in the regulation of pain.
Gene Polymorphism; Fibromyalgia/Pain Syndromes; Epidemiology
There is a significant proportion of chronic pain that is persistent and neuropathic, appears undertreated or untreated, and is associated with poor health and quality of life.
Best current estimates of neuropathic pain prevalence come from studies using screening tools detecting pain with probable neuropathic features; the proportion experiencing significant, long-term neuropathic pain, and the proportion not responding to standard treatment are unknown. These “refractory” cases are the most clinically important to detect, being the most severe, requiring specialist treatment. The aim of this study was to estimate the proportion of neuropathic pain in the population that is “refractory,” and to quantify associated clinical and demographic features. We posted self-administered questionnaires to 10,000 adult patients randomly selected from 10 general practitioner practices in 5 UK locations. The questionnaire contained chronic pain identification and severity questions, cause of pain, SF-12, EQ-5D, S-LANSS (Self-administered Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Signs and Symptoms), PSEQ (Pain Self-Efficacy Questionnaire), use of neuropathic pain medications, and health care utilisation. These data were combined to determine the presence and characteristics of “refractory” neuropathic pain according to the defining features identified by a Delphi survey of international experts. Graded categories of chronic pain with and without neuropathic characteristics were generated, incorporating the refractory criteria. Completed questionnaires were returned by 4451 individuals (response rate 47%); 399 had “chronic pain with neuropathic characteristics” (S-LANSS positive, 8.9% of the study sample); 215 (53.9%) also reported a positive relevant history (“Possible neuropathic pain”); and 98 (4.5% of all Chronic Pain) also reported an “adequate” trial of at least one neuropathic pain drug (“Treated possible neuropathic pain”). The most refractory cases were associated with dramatically poorer physical and mental health, lower pain self-efficacy, higher pain intensity and pain-related disability, and greater health care service use.
Neuropathic pain; Chronic pain; Epidemiology; S-LANSS; Refractory
Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study (GS:SFHS) is a family-based biobank of 24,000 participants with rich phenotype and DNA available for genetic research. This paper describes the laboratory results from genotyping 32 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on DNA from over 10,000 participants who attended GS:SFHS research clinics. The analysis described here was undertaken to test the quality of genetic information available to researchers. The success rate of each marker genotyped (call rate), minor allele frequency and adherence to Mendelian inheritance are presented. The few deviations in marker transmission in the 925 parent-child trios analysed were assessed as to whether they were likely to be miscalled genotypes, data or sample handling errors, or pedigree inaccuracies including non-paternity.
The first 10,450 GS:SFHS clinic participants who had spirometry and smoking data available and DNA extracted were selected. 32 SNPs were assayed, chosen as part of a replication experiment from a Genome-Wide Association Study meta-analysis of lung function.
In total 325,336 genotypes were returned. The overall project pass rate (32 SNPs on 10,450 samples) was 97.29%. A total of 925 parent-child trios were assessed for transmission of the SNP markers, with 16 trios indicating evidence of inconsistency in the recorded pedigrees.
The Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study used well-validated study methods and can produce good quality genetic data, with a low error rate. The GS:SFHS DNA samples are of high quality and the family groups were recorded and processed with accuracy during collection of the cohort.
Genetics; SNP Genotyping; Parent-child trios; Error rate; Non paternity; Generation Scotland; Biobank
Over 50% of older adults experience chronic pain. Poorly managed pain threatens independent functioning, limits social activities and detrimentally affects emotional wellbeing. Yet, chronic pain is not fully understood from older adults’ perspectives; subsequently, pain management in later life is not necessarily based on their priorities or needs. This paper reports a qualitative exploration of older adults’ accounts of living with chronic pain, focusing on how they describe pain, with a view to informing approaches to its assessment.
Cognitively intact men and women aged over sixty-five who lived in the community opted into the study through responding to advertisements in the media and via contacts with groups and organisations in North-East Scotland. Interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed using a framework approach.
Qualitative individual interviews and one group interview were undertaken with 23 older adults. Following analysis, the following main themes emerged: diversity in conceptualising pain using a simple numerical score; personalising the meaning of pain by way of stories, similes and metaphors; and, contextualising pain in relation to its impact on activities.
The importance of attending to individuals’ stories as a meaningful way of describing pain for older adults is highlighted, suggesting that a narrative approach, as recommended and researched in other areas of medicine, may usefully be applied in pain assessment for older adults. Along with the judicious use of numerical tools, this requires innovative methods to elicit verbal accounts, such as using similes and metaphors to help older adults describe and discuss their experience, and contextualising the effects of pain on activities that are important to them.
Older adults; Ageing; Qualitative research; Stories; Metaphors; Chronic pain; Community
Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels are encoded by four genes (HCN1–4) and, through activation by cyclic AMP (cAMP), represent a point of convergence for several psychosis risk genes. On the basis of positive preliminary data, we sought to test whether genetic variation in HCN1–4 conferred risk of depression or cognitive impairment in the Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study. HCN1, HCN2, HCN3, and HCN4 were genotyped for 43 haplotype-tagging SNPs and tested for association with DSM-IV depression, neuroticism, and a battery of cognitive tests assessing cognitive ability, memory, verbal fluency, and psychomotor performance. No association was found between any HCN channel gene SNP and risk of depression, neuroticism, or on any cognitive measure. The current study does not support a genetic role for HCN channels in conferring risk of depression or cognitive impairment in individuals from the Scottish population.
stress; depression; HCN channel; genetics; association; cognition; neuroticism
Best current estimates of neuropathic pain (NeuP) prevalence come from studies using various screening detecting pain with probable neuropathic features; the proportion experiencing significant, long-term NeuP, and the proportion not responding to standard treatment are unknown. These “refractory” cases are the most clinically important to detect, being the most severe, requiring specialist treatment.
We report an international Delphi survey of experts in NeuP, aiming for consensus on the features required to define, for epidemiological research: (1) neuropathic pain; and (2) when NeuP is “refractory”. A web-based questionnaire was developed and data collected from three rounds of questionnaires from nineteen experts.
There was good consensus on essential inclusion of six items to identify NeuP (“prickling, tingling, pins & needles”, “pain evoked by light touch”, “electric shocks or shooting pain”, “hot or burning” pain, “brush allodynia on self-examination”, and “relevant history”) and on some items that were non-essential. Consensus was also reached on components of a “refractory NeuP” definition: minimum duration (one year); number of trials of drugs of known effectiveness (four); adequate duration of these trials (three months / maximum tolerated); outcomes of treatment (pain severity, quality of life). Further work needs to validate these proposed criteria in general population research.
This paper presents an international consensus on measuring the epidemiology of refractory neuropathic pain. This will be valuable in reaching an agreed estimate of the prevalence of neuropathic pain, and the first estimate of refractory neuropathic pain prevalence.
Neuropathic pain; Refractory; Epidemiology; Delphi method; Web-based questionnaire
Rationale: Genomic loci are associated with FEV1 or the ratio of FEV1 to FVC in population samples, but their association with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has not yet been proven, nor have their combined effects on lung function and COPD been studied.
Objectives: To test association with COPD of variants at five loci (TNS1, GSTCD, HTR4, AGER, and THSD4) and to evaluate joint effects on lung function and COPD of these single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and variants at the previously reported locus near HHIP.
Methods: By sampling from 12 population-based studies (n = 31,422), we obtained genotype data on 3,284 COPD case subjects and 17,538 control subjects for sentinel SNPs in TNS1, GSTCD, HTR4, AGER, and THSD4. In 24,648 individuals (including 2,890 COPD case subjects and 13,862 control subjects), we additionally obtained genotypes for rs12504628 near HHIP. Each allele associated with lung function decline at these six SNPs contributed to a risk score. We studied the association of the risk score to lung function and COPD.
Measurements and Main Results: Association with COPD was significant for three loci (TNS1, GSTCD, and HTR4) and the previously reported HHIP locus, and suggestive and directionally consistent for AGER and TSHD4. Compared with the baseline group (7 risk alleles), carrying 10–12 risk alleles was associated with a reduction in FEV1 (β = –72.21 ml, P = 3.90 × 10−4) and FEV1/FVC (β = –1.53%, P = 6.35 × 10−6), and with COPD (odds ratio = 1.63, P = 1.46 × 10−5).
Conclusions: Variants in TNS1, GSTCD, and HTR4 are associated with COPD. Our highest risk score category was associated with a 1.6-fold higher COPD risk than the population average score.
FEV1; FVC; genome-wide association study; modeling risk
Associations between symptom experience and mortality have rarely been investigated. One study has suggested that the number of symptoms people experience may be an important predictor of mortality. This novel and potentially important finding may have important implications but needs to be tested in other cohorts.
858 people aged around 58 years were interviewed by nurses in 1990/1 as part of the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. They were asked about the presence of symptoms in the last month from a checklist of 33 symptoms. Measures of morbidity included symptom type (respiratory, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, mental health, neurological, systemic) and symptom summary measures looking at the number and impact of symptoms (total number; number participants tended to have; number participants did not tend to have; number which restricted usual activities; number which led to GP consultation). Hazard ratios for thirteen-year all-cause mortality were calculated for symptom types, symptom summary measures, and self-assessed health with and without adjustment.
On unadjusted analysis, and after adjusting for gender, socio-economic status and smoking, mortality was elevated in individuals reporting respiratory, systemic and mental health symptoms. After additional adjustment for chronic conditions and self-assessed health, only the association between mental health symptoms and mortality remained significant. On unadjusted analysis, and after adjusting for gender, socio-economic status and smoking, mortality was elevated in individuals with many (≥ 6) symptoms in four of the symptom summary measures examined. These relationships were no longer significant after additional adjustment for chronic conditions and self-assessed health. A clear trend of increasing mortality as self-assessed health became poorer was observed. This pattern remained statistically significant after adjustment for gender, socio-economic status, smoking, chronic conditions and the total number of symptoms experienced.
Symptoms often thought of as minor may have important consequences later in life especially for those reporting mental health-related symptoms or those experiencing many symptoms. In this study however, self-assessed health appeared to be a better predictor of mortality than the type or number of symptoms experienced, even when the tendency to have and impact of the symptoms were taken into account.
Generation Scotland: the Scottish Family Health Study aims to identify genetic variants accounting for variation in levels of quantitative traits underlying the major common complex diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, mental illness) in Scotland.
Generation Scotland will recruit a family-based cohort of up to 50,000 individuals (comprising siblings and parent-offspring groups) across Scotland. It will be a six-year programme, beginning in Glasgow and Tayside in the first two years (Phase 1) before extending to other parts of Scotland in the remaining four years (Phase 2). In Phase 1, individuals aged between 35 and 55 years, living in the East and West of Scotland will be invited to participate, along with at least one (and preferably more) siblings and any other first degree relatives aged 18 or over. The total initial sample size will be 15,000 and it is planned that this will increase to 50,000 in Phase 2. All participants will be asked to contribute blood samples from which DNA will be extracted and stored for future investigation. The information from the DNA, along with answers to a life-style and medical history questionnaire, clinical and biochemical measurements taken at the time of donation, and subsequent health developments over the life course (traced through electronic health records) will be stored and used for research purposes. In addition, a detailed public consultation process will begin that will allow respondents' views to shape and develop the study. This is an important aspect to the research, and forms the continuation of a long-term parallel engagement process.
As well as gene identification, the family-based study design will allow measurement of the heritability and familial aggregation of relevant quantitative traits, and the study of how genetic effects may vary by parent-of-origin. Long-term potential outcomes of this research include the targeting of disease prevention and treatment, and the development of screening tools based on the new genetic information. This study approach is complementary to other population-based genetic epidemiology studies, such as UK Biobank, which are established primarily to characterise genes and genetic risk in the population.
Relatively little is known about the clinical importance of symptoms not presented to healthcare services. Using data from a community survey we examined the health status among those with chronic pain who reported using or not using healthcare services. Individuals with chronic pain who had used healthcare services in the previous year had poorer health than symptomatic responders who had not used services, irrespective of the severity of chronic pain. The findings suggest that there is little point in trying to detect and treat individuals not currently presenting to healthcare services with their pain.
health services; health services research; health status indicators; pain; signs and symptoms