Background: Schizophrenia and white blood cell counts (WBC) are both complex and polygenic traits. Previous evidence suggests that increased WBC are associated with higher all-cause mortality, and other studies have found elevated WBC in first-episode psychosis and chronic schizophrenia. However, these observational findings may be confounded by antipsychotic exposures and their effects on WBC. Mendelian randomization (MR) is a useful method for examining the directions of genetically-predicted relationships between schizophrenia and WBC. Methods: We performed a two-sample MR using summary statistics from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) conducted by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Schizophrenia Workgroup (N = 130,644) and the Blood Cell Consortium (N = 563,946). The MR methods included inverse variance weighted (IVW), MR Egger, weighted median, MR-PRESSO, contamination mixture, and a novel approach called mixture model reciprocal causal inference (MRCI). False discovery rate was employed to correct for multiple testing. Results: Multiple MR methods supported bidirectional genetically-predicted relationships between lymphocyte count and schizophrenia: IVW (b = 0.026; FDR p-value = 0.008), MR Egger (b = 0.026; FDR p-value = 0.008), weighted median (b = 0.013; FDR p-value = 0.049), and MR-PRESSO (b = 0.014; FDR p-value = 0.010) in the forward direction, and IVW (OR = 1.100; FDR p-value = 0.021), MR Egger (OR = 1.231; FDR p-value < 0.001), weighted median (OR = 1.136; FDR p-value = 0.006) and MRCI (OR = 1.260; FDR p-value = 0.026) in the reverse direction. MR Egger (OR = 1.171; FDR p-value < 0.001) and MRCI (OR = 1.154; FDR p-value = 0.026) both suggested genetically-predicted eosinophil count is associated with schizophrenia, but MR Egger (b = 0.060; FDR p-value = 0.010) and contamination mixture (b = -0.013; FDR p-value = 0.045) gave ambiguous results on whether genetically predicted liability to schizophrenia would be associated with eosinophil count. MR Egger (b = 0.044; FDR p-value = 0.010) and MR-PRESSO (b = 0.009; FDR p-value = 0.045) supported genetically predicted liability to schizophrenia is associated with elevated monocyte count, and the opposite direction was also indicated by MR Egger (OR = 1.231; FDR p-value = 0.045). Lastly, unidirectional genetic liability from schizophrenia to neutrophil count were proposed by MR-PRESSO (b = 0.011; FDR p-value = 0.028) and contamination mixture (b = 0.011; FDR p-value = 0.045) method. Conclusion: This MR study utilised multiple MR methods to obtain results suggesting bidirectional genetic genetically-predicted relationships for elevated lymphocyte counts and schizophrenia risk. In addition, moderate evidence also showed bidirectional genetically-predicted relationships between schizophrenia and monocyte counts, and unidirectional effect from genetic liability for eosinophil count to schizophrenia and from genetic liability for schizophrenia to neutrophil count. The influence of schizophrenia to eosinophil count is less certain. Our findings support the role of WBC in schizophrenia and concur with the hypothesis of neuroinflammation in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-30
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Behavior and Immunity
Early online date13 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Mendelian randomization
  • Schizophrenia
  • White blood cell count
  • immune system
  • Neuroinflammation


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