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DUBLIN, Sept 7 (AFP) - Users of the drug ecstasy, popular with nightclubbers, face an increased risk of catching infectious diseases because the substance suppresses the body's immune system, a science conference in Ireland was told Wednesday.
Dr Tomas Connor, a physiologist at Trinity College Dublin, said research carried out by his laboratory had "clearly demonstrated" that ecstasy's active ingredient -- methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA -- has immunosuppressive properties.
"A number of studies indicate that MDMA suppresses aspects of both innate and adaptive immunity and is therefore likely to be a predisposing factor to infectious disease," he said.
"In fact medical case reports are now emerging which link MDMA abuse to increased disease susceptibility," he told the British Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Dublin.
MDMA, a type of amphetamine, was first developed as an appetite suppressant in 1914 but was never marketed for that purpose.
In the 1980s it became a popular drug at "raves", all night dance parties, with clubbers finding it induced a relaxed, euphoric state, including emotional openness, increased empathy and a decrease in inhibitions.
Connor said ecstasy use had a number of serious side effects. It affected the heart, and could lead to hypothermia, kidney failure, seizures and brain haemorrhage.
In addition, its propensity to affect levels of mood-affecting serotonin in the brain could cause depression, anxiety or even psychosis, he said.
"Moreover, there is evidence accumulating to suggest that depression induced by MDMA abuse may be more difficult to treat than regular depression," Connor added.
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