medRxiv. 2023 Nov 27:2023.11.27.23297542. doi: 10.1101/2023.11.27.23297542. Preprint.
A diagnosis of epilepsy has significant consequences for an individual but is often challenging in clinical practice. Novel biomarkers are thus greatly needed. Here, we investigated how common genetic factors (epilepsy polygenic risk scores, [PRSs]) influence epilepsy risk in detailed longitudinal electronic health records (EHRs) of > 360k Finns spanning up to 50 years of individuals’ lifetimes. Individuals with a high genetic generalized epilepsy PRS (PRS GGE ) in FinnGen had an increased risk for genetic generalized epilepsy (GGE) (hazard ratio [HR] 1.55 per PRS GGE standard deviation [SD]) across their lifetime and after unspecified seizure events. Effect sizes of epilepsy PRSs were comparable to effect sizes in clinically curated data supporting our EHR-derived epilepsy diagnoses. Within 10 years after an unspecified seizure, the GGE rate was 37% when PRS GGE > 2 SD compared to 5.6% when PRS GGE < -2 SD. The effect of PRS GGE was even larger on GGE subtypes of idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE) (HR 2.1 per SD PRS GGE ). We further report significantly larger effects of PRS GGE on epilepsy in females and in younger age groups. Analogously, we found significant but more modest focal epilepsy PRS burden associated with non-acquired focal epilepsy (NAFE). We found PRS GGE specifically associated with GGE in comparison with >2000 independent diseases while PRS NAFE was also associated with other diseases than NAFE such as back pain. Here, we show that epilepsy specific PRSs have good discriminative ability after a first seizure event i.e. in circumstances where the prior probability of epilepsy is high outlining a potential to serve as biomarkers for an epilepsy diagnosis.