GENEVA, Oct 5 (AFP) - The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert on Wednesday (Oct 5) over four cough and cold syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals in India, warning they could be linked to the deaths of 66 children in The Gambia.

The UN health agency also cautioned the contaminated medications may have been distributed outside of the West African country, with global exposure "possible".

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 loss of these young lives is beyond heartbreaking for their families."

Tedros said WHO was also "conducting further investigation with the company and regulatory authorities in India".

According to the medical product alert issued by WHO on Wednesday, the four products are Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup.

On Thursday, Gambian authorities began collecting paracetamol and promethazine syrup from rural households in the West Coast Region and Upper River Region.

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 AFP Wednesday.

Health authorities had on Sep 23 ordered a recall of all medicines containing paracetamol or promethazine syrup.