Subcellular antibiotic visualization reveals a dynamic drug reservoir in infected macrophages

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Tuberculosis, caused by the intracellular pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, remains the world's deadliest infectious disease. Sterilizing chemotherapy requires at least 6 months of multidrug therapy. Difficulty visualizing the subcellular localization of antibiotics in infected host cells means that it is unclear whether antibiotics penetrate all mycobacteria-containing compartments in the cell. Here, we combined correlated light, electron, and ion microscopy to image the distribution of bedaquiline in infected human macrophages at submicrometer resolution. Bedaquiline accumulated primarily in host cell lipid droplets, but heterogeneously in mycobacteria within a variety of intracellular compartments. Furthermore, lipid droplets did not sequester antibiotic but constituted a transferable reservoir that enhanced antibacterial efficacy. Thus, strong lipid binding facilitated drug trafficking by host organelles to an intracellular target during antimicrobial treatment.