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The oxidative pathway for the metabolism of tryptophan along the kynurenine pathway generates quinolinic acid, an agonist at N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors, as well as kynurenic acid which is an antagonist at glutamate and nicotinic receptors. The pathway has become recognized as a key player in the mechanisms of neuronal damage and neurodegenerative disorders. As a result, manipulation of the pathway, so that the balance between the levels of components of the pathway can be modified, has become an attractive target for the development of pharmacological agents with the potential to treat those disorders. This review summarizes some of the relevant background information on the pathway itself before identifying some of the chemical strategies for its modification, with examples of their successful application in animal models of infection, stroke, traumatic brain damage, cerebral malaria and cerebral trypanosomiasis.