SUSPECTED METHANOL POISONING INCIDENT ALERT [Updated 13 May 2024]

Location: Jatiuwung, Tangerang City, Indonesia Date: April 2024 Cases: 5 Deaths: 3 SOURCE

Location: Blantyre City, Malawi Date: April 2024 Cases: 12 Deaths: 7 SOURCE

Location: Shiraz, Iran Date: April 2024 Cases: 24 Deaths: 1 SOURCE

About the Methanol Poisoning initiative (MPi)

Established in 2012, the Methanol Poisoning initiative (MPi) is a joint venture between Oslo University
Hospital (OUH) and MSF, looking at mechanisms to improve the survival of methanol poisoning patients globally. The
initiative combines OUH’s expertise in clinical toxicology in general and methanol poisoning in particular, and
MSF’s experience as a humanitarian organisation skilled in providing the infrastructure and the overall handling of
such an emergency.

At the moment, MPi focuses on the following:

  • To support MSF missions and partners in the diagnosis, treatment and educational needs in high burden areas,
    including the development/ updating of national treatment protocols
  • To raise awareness and knowledge on methanol poisoning, and develop materials for public education
  • To push for greater availability and accessibility to the antidote fomepizole
  • To support efforts in the development of a simple point-of-care diagnostic tool for the screening of
    methanol poisoning

Our works

Outbreak Intervention

Dr. Knut Erik Hovda with a patient during a methanol poisoning outbreak in Kenya in 2014. © MSF
Dr. Knut Erik Hovda with a patient during a methanol
poisoning outbreak in Kenya in 2014. © MSF

The team has supported MSF missions in 3 outbreak interventions:

  • In Tripoli, Libya over 1,000 patients were poisoned with a reported case fatality rate of 10%
    (101/1,066) in March 2013.
  • In Kenya, two outbreaks resulted in 341 and 126 patients respectively in May and July 2014, with case
    fatality rates of 29% (100/341) and 21% (26/126).

Capacity Building

Dr. Knut Erik Hovda speaks about how to diagnose and treat patients suffering from methanol poisoning to doctors and nurses at a hospital in Indonesia in 2016. © Kyrre Lind.
Dr. Knut Erik Hovda speaks about how to diagnose and
treat patients suffering from methanol poisoning to doctors and nurses at a hospital in Indonesia in
2016. © Kyrre Lind.
  • 2015: In Kenya, the team trained MSF staff from three
    Operational Centers (OCs) and several hundred local Ministry of Health (MoH) personnel.
  • 2016: In Indonesia, the team trained MSF staff and local NGOs,
    as well as participated in several workshops.
  • 2017-2018: In Russia and Indonesia, the team held lectures and
    trainings for MoH health professionals and MSF staff. An internal workshop was also conducted for MSF
    staff in Southeast Asia and the neighbouring regions.
  • 2019-2020: In Cambodia, the team participated in several
    workshops and led the development of new, national guidelines for the handling of methanol poisoning
    together with MoH/CDC and WHO. The team also held a workshop in China for the Chinese CDC to support the
    development of a new methanol poisoning guideline. A refresher workshop was also conducted for MSF staff
    in Southeast Asia. The team participated in the MSF Critical Care workshop in 2019 which led to the
    development of MSF’s own intersectional treatment protocol that can now be used by projects all over the
    world.
  • 2021-2022: In Bangladesh, the team in collaboration with the
    MSF project supported the health authorities with locally adapted educational materials and a training
    webinar.

Protocol Development

Click to download the Methanol
Poisoning Treatment Protocol

Advocating Access to Antidote Fomepizole

Fomepizole is the preferred antidote for methanol poisoning, however, it is expensive and not available in most
of the affected countries.
MSF is advocating for increased availability and accessibility to fomepizole.

About MSF

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent medical humanitarian organisation. We provide
medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. Our teams are
made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistic and administrative staff – most of them hired
locally. Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality.

Click to learn more

MPi Team

MPi Team Lead
Fiona Chuah
MSF Public Health Lead
General Enquiry
Email:
methanol.poisoning@hongkong.msf.org
MPi Communications Lead
Tania Chan
MSF Communications Officer
Media Enquiry
Email:
tania.chan@hongkong.msf.org
MPi Technical Expert
Knut Erik Hovda
Senior Consultant, Department of Acute Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Norway
MPi Technical Expert
Morten Rostrup
Professor and Senior Consultant, Department of Acute Medicine, Oslo University Hospital and University of
Oslo, Norway