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Gambia Probing Paracetamol Child Deaths

FILE: Illustration of the pain reliever medication Paracetamol in tablet form. Taken 1.7.2009

Gambia's government is investigating whether the death of dozens of young children from kidney failure in recent months is linked to a paracetamol syrup, the West African country's health director said on Thursday.

"Dozens of children have died in the last three months," Gambia's director of health services, Mustapha Bittaye, told Reuters. "Autopsies suggest the possibility of paracetamol."

A spike in cases of acute kidney injury among children under the age of five was detected in late July.

Symptoms including an inability to pass urine and a fever can within hours end in kidney failure.

It was not yet clear if one brand of paracetamol was under investigation. Bittaye said it was likely a syrup sold locally.

In a statement last week, Gambia's health authorities said that this kind of illness often has more than one cause.

E. coli bacteria was also a possibility, Bittaye said.

In an update a month ago, the health ministry reported 28 deaths. Bittaye said that the number was much higher now.

An official tally is expected in coming days, he said.