Gambia gov’t investigates paracetamol syrup as dozens of children died of kidney disease

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Gambia gov’t investigates paracetamol syrup as dozens of children died of kidney disease

With the deaths of dozens of children from kidney failure in recent months, the government of Gambia has commenced investigations to ascertain if the deaths are linked to paracetamol syrup.

The head of Gambia Health Service said there has been a spike in cases of acute kidney injury among children under the age of five since July 2022. As cases mounted, doctors began to suspect a paracetamol syrup could be involved.

Gambia’s director of health services, Mustapha Bittaye, told Reuters that a number of patients began to fall ill with kidney problems three to five days after taking a paracetamol syrup sold locally.

It was not yet clear if any particular brand of paracetamol was under investigation. E. coli bacteria was also a possible cause, Bittaye said.

By early August, 28 children had died, according to health ministry figures, for a fatality rate of nearly 90 percent. The number of fatalities is now much higher, said Bittaye.

An official updated tally is expected in the coming days.

“Dozens of children have died in the last three months,” Bittaye told Reuters by phone. “Autopsies suggest the possibility of paracetamol.”

E. coli bacteria could also be a possible cause as heavy rains have caused flooding in Gambia, and across much of West Africa, in recent weeks.

The unpaved streets of the capital Banjul and surrounding towns have been overwhelmed.

The use of open pit latrines and open drinking wells in urban centres can lead to the contamination of drinking water and contribute to the spread of waterborne illnesses like E. coli, health workers said.

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