Four cold and cough syrups manufactured in India "have been potentially linked with acute kidney injuries and 66 deaths among children", says WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a medical product alert for four contaminated medicines detected in the Gambia which have been potentially linked to acute kidney injuries and child deaths.
"The four medicines are cough and cold syrups produced by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited in India. WHO is conducting further investigation with the company and regulatory authorities in India," the UN health agency said on Twitter on Wednesday.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters the four cold and cough syrups in question "have been potentially linked with acute kidney injuries and 66 deaths among children".
The WHO warned that while the contaminated products have so far only been detected in the Gambia, they may have been distributed outside of the West African country.
The UN agency urged all countries to identify and remove these products from circulation to hinder further harm to patients.
It also cautioned the contaminated medications may have been distributed outside of the West African country, with global exposure "possible".
"WHO has today issued a medical product alert for four contaminated medicines identified in #Gambia that have been potentially linked with acute kidney injuries and 66 deaths among children. The loss of these young lives is beyond heartbreaking for their families"-@DrTedros— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) October 5, 2022
E coli bacteria
A Gambian Health Ministry investigation, which began in July and is ongoing, also cited the E coli bacteria as a possible cause of the acute kidney failure outbreak.
"The preliminary results from the ongoing investigation indicate that it is most probably the paracetamol and promethazine syrups that caused the acute kidney injury cases in this outbreak," Abubacarr Jagne, the nephrologist leading the Health Ministry's investigation, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.
According to the alert issued by the WHO, the four products are Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup.
"To date, the stated manufacturer has not provided guarantees to WHO on the safety and quality of these products," the statement said.
On Thursday, Gambian authorities began collecting paracetamol and promethazine syrup from rural households in the West Coast Region and Upper River Region.
Tedros urged caution, calling on all countries to work to "detect and remove these products from circulation to prevent further harm to patients".