Background  Cutaneous larva migrans (CLM) is caused by the penetration of larvae of animal hookworms into the skin. Knowledge about this ectoparasitosis is mainly based on the examination of travelers or other expatriates. Population-based studies in an endemic area have never been performed.

Methods  A representative population sample of an urban slum in a Brazilian city was examined for the presence of CLM and asked about symptoms associated with the ectoparasitosis.

Results  In total, 3.1% (95% confidence interval, 2.2–4.3%) of the 1185 inhabitants examined presented CLM. Forty-three per cent had more than one larval track (range, 1–17). The prevalence rate in males was 4.2% vs. 2.3% in females. CLM occurred at similar prevalence rates in all age groups. All patients complained of moderate or severe itching. In three cases (8.1%), superinfection was present. Most lesions were located on the trunk, legs, and arms. Not a single lesion was located on the feet.

Conclusions  This population-based study showed that CLM is endemic in this deprived community. The number of lesions and their topographic localization are in contrast with those obtained in previous reports based on the examination of individuals or groups affected in small outbreaks. We conclude that the clinico-epidemiologic pattern of CLM in a deprived community is different from that observed in travelers.