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Gambia says surge in child deaths linked to Indian cough syrup under control

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Gambia’s president-elect Adama Barrow gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. (Photo by Zohra Bensemra, Reuters)

Gambia's President Adama Barrow says a surge in acute kidney injuries likely linked to an Indian paracetamol syrup that killed dozens of children in past months was under control, with only two diagnoses in the last two weeks.

A probe was launched last month after the doctors in July noticed a number of children developing symptoms after taking a locally-sold paracetamol syrup used to treat fevers.

Kidney injuries caused 66 child deaths in the past three months, Barrow said in an address to the nation, adding that investigations were ongoing.

This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that laboratory tests on four products by Indian pharmaceutical company Maiden found "unacceptable" levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which can be toxic and contain lead that can cause severe kidney injury.

The Indian health ministry has announced that samples of all four cough syrups exported to Gambia have been sent to a federal laboratory for further investigation.

Maiden told Reuters on Thursday that it had only just heard about the deaths and was trying to find out details.

Barrow said Gambia's health ministry was working with the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some syrup samples sent to Senegal, Ghana, France and Switzerland for testing showed signs of contamination on Thursday, he added without further details.

For now, the sales of all brands of paracetamol syrup in Gambia have been suspended on the orders of the government. The product has also been taken off the shelves of pharmacies.

Maiden Pharma has an annual production capacity of 2.2 million bottles of syrup, 600 million capsules, 18 million injections, 300,000 tubes of ointment and 1.2 billion tablets.

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